The 1972 Democratic convention, held in Miami Beach of all places—headquarters of Jackie Gleason, where the hotel lobbies were chilled to 60 degrees so that ladies could wear their furs—looked like the disgruntled celebratory dirty flowering of 1960s youthcult. The New York and California delegations, which Mayor Daley had kept to the back of the auditorium in 1968, were now front and center, and full of colorfully attired freaks.
McGovernites welcomed the flavor burst of radicalism. They desired the greening of America, so we could all be hipped to what the kids were up to, whether it was dropping acid, burning draft cards or making pipe bombs. Nixon’s people were the silent majority, who wanted to keep politics in its place, not sprawled all over their daily lives. The silent majority still exists in our PC age. Harangued, guilt-tripped, and policed for microaggressions, they want the media and academic-elite diversocrats out of their hair.
The McGovern forces stumbled over the issue of people’s moral choices, which Nixon voters acknowledged but which they often ignored. Nixon talked about law and order, not out of resentment but rather loyalty to the ethics that most people shared. Killing cops was bad, the Nixonites said (in 1971, 129 police officers were murdered, the highest number anyone could remember). McGovern’s superleftist fans blamed something called oppression, not criminals with guns.
Finally, there was busing, a doomed policy that McGovern defended to the hilt, in robotic fashion, as the unpleasant but necessary payback for a history of racial injustice. Busing used white and Black kids as pawns instead of working to better African American schools, which had been decimated by the widespread elimination of tracking and gifted programs in the 1960s. Most people saw busing as an injustice the government was doing to their child, rather than a serious effort to achieve racial equality. Once again, the silent majority was following a commonsense moral feeling, but the McGovernite left tarred them as mere racists. To be sure, there were racists among the anti-busing forces, but that didn’t make busing a wise or just policy.
Read the whole article, which is terrific. To get a sense of how far to the left the Democratic Party has shifted in America, as Power Line’s Steve Hayward wrote in his 2012 obit, while McGovern was dubbed by his enemies as turning his party into one that supports “amnesty, acid, and abortion:”
But on the last issue—abortion—we can see how radical the Democratic Party has become since. McGovern’s position at the beginning of the campaign was that abortion was a matter that should be left to state legislatures (which is the default Republican position today), and although he resisted attempts at including a pro-abortion plank in the Democratic platform in 1972, he gradually conceded to the pro-abortion views of insurgent feminists. (Muskie and Humphrey, it is worth adding, both opposed abortion. “I am not for it,” said Humphrey. “It compromises the sanctity of life,” said Muskie. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had an even tougher opinion at that time, describing abortion “as too nice a word for something cold, like murder.”) While McGovern conceded under pressure from feminists, he wouldn’t embrace abortion-on-demand. There must be regulating legislation, McGovern thought: “You can’t just let anybody walk in and request an abortion.”
As for Nixon, a big government-loving liberal Republican, he has had an increasing amount of strange new respect from leftists in recent decades — including the late Roger Ebert, and Timesmen such as Paul Krugman and the late Tom Wicker.